What you need to know
- Google has bolstered its diversity and inclusion efforts with the help of a 2000-strong team of 'Inclusion Champions.'
- The company's product inclusion team tests products to ensure they work for all kinds of people when they're released.
- They also work to consider the needs of underrepresented communities and more.
While almost every virtual assistant sucks when it comes to understanding accents, Google's offering generally fares better than most. If you've been wondering why, it's because, as the company's head of product inclusion, Annie Jean Baptiste, told Digital Trends at CES 2020, the company's making a concerted effort to test its products work for people of different backgrounds from the get-go.
"Have we talked to international users, have we talked to older users, have we talked to someone with a vision impairment?" Baptiste listed as examples of the questions her team tries to ask before okaying a product for launch.
Baptiste credits the origins of the team to the imaging team on the original Pixel phone. As one of the engineers working on the camera algorithms discovered, the software wasn't good at resolving different skin tones with the same accuracy. When the engineer asked Baptiste what he could do to ensure the tech wasn't biased, Baptiste was charged with drafting the processes to ensure Google's products weren't subject to engineers' subconscious biases.
Baptiste claims that, since then, the company has trained as many as 12,000 of its engineers to be mindful of inclusive design in their work and to ensure that their products work for all the different communities the company's products serve.
In addition, the company is set to release a blog post the coming Thursday that goes over some of the work that the inclusion team has done in the past few years to ensure that Google's products are as accessible as possible. While we'll look forward to that, and the company's continuing efforts to improving both its workplace and the technology it produces, the Mountain View giant still has a long way to go.